HP launched its new Spectre laptop, which is billed as the thinnest in the world, and the big picture is that the company is trying to position itself as an elegant innovator with a dash of luxury.
Just consider the venue of HP's launch. The PC and printer maker rolled out the new Spectre and its "premium portfolio" of Envy devices at the New York Times International Luxury Conference in Versailles, France.
HP continues its march toward premium PC territory with the new HP Spectre, which the company calls "the world's thinnest laptop." So far, the numbers stand up. According to HP, the 13-inch Spectre is 10.4mm thick, while Apple's iconic MacBook Air is 17mm thick, as is the Lenovo LaVie (which can claim to be the world's lightest 13-inch laptop). The 12-inch MacBook and the recent Razer Blade Stealth both clock in at 13mm thick. When we get down to a few millimeters, one might think it wouldn't make much of a difference, but a 17mm laptop feels very different from a 13mm laptop, and based on my short hands-on time with the HP Spectre, a 10.4mm laptop feels different from both of those.
A bold color scheme also helps the Spectre stand out, ditching the usual silver/grey for a dark, smokey gray, with bold gold accents.The entire hinge is a bright, jeweled gold, which just draws more attention to its unusual design. To avoid unnecessary bulk, the hinge has moved in from the very rear edge, and is instead inset by a tiny bit. It's a design we've seen on a handful of laptops over the years, although usually on much larger systems. That hinge is aluminum, as is the laptop's lid, while the bottom panel is carbon fiber. HP says the mix of materials serves to give the Spectre the right balance between weight and stiffness, especially in the lid. At 2.45 pounds, this isn't close to being the lightest 13-inch laptop ever, but it's still very easy to pick up and carry around.
Inside the body, according to a deconstructed version of the system I was able to look at, a standard laptop battery is flattened down into multiple separate very thin cells, to fit across most of the bottom footprint. HP also uses smaller fans to pull air in and through the laptop, rather than exclusively pushing hot air out. It's a version of a cooling scheme from Intel which it calls hyperbaric cooling.
Compared with other very thin, very light laptops, such as the 12-inch MacBook or Lenovo LaVie, the keyboard on the HP Spectre really stands out as excellent. The keys feel a little shallower than on a more full-size 13-inch laptop, but this is a standard island-style keyboard that won't have the learning curve of something like the MacBook.
The only display option is a 1,920x1,080 full HD non-touch screen. Other slim laptops add higher resolutions and touch, and Windows 10 still really works best when you can combine a good touchpad with a touch screen. HP says it's to keep the lid as thin as possible, which includes a Gorilla Glass top layer over the display. A legitimate calculation, no doubt, buy it's also very tough to sell an ultra-premium laptop these days without touch (unless you're Apple).
The biggest surprise is that this very slim laptop doesn't rely on Intel's lower-power Core M line of processors, as seen in products such as the 12-inch MacBook and Samsung Galaxy TabPro S. Instead, the Spectre will use current-gen mainstream Intel Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, along with 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.
My initial impressions of the HP Spectre are that it looks great, and I especially like the new take on the HP logo, which should start turning up on other premium products from the company; the keyboard was especially impressive for such as slim laptop; and the inclusion of Core i-series processors will help this feel like a system powerful enough to use all day, every day. Just be ready to jump fully into the world of USB-C, the new multi-purpose data, power and accessory connector. The Spectre has three USB-C ports along the back, one of which needs to act as a power connection, but no other ports.
The HP Spectre will be available to preorder online on April 25, from HP.com and Best Buy's BBY.com site, starting at $1,169 in the US (international prices and availability have not been announced yet). It will be available in Best Buy retail stores from May 29, in a configurations starting at $1,249.
Also new from HP this week, the 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch HP Envy clamshell laptops are getting some minor upgrades. Both feature slightly slimmer designs, edge-to-edge glass over HD or 4K displays and sixth-gen Intel Core processors. The 15-inch version of the hybrid HP Envy x360 also gets HD or 4K screen options and up to a sixth-gen Intel Core i7 with optional Intel Iris graphics. It will also offer an option for the new AMD FX 9800/Radeon R7 CPU/GPU combo, making this the first PC with one of AMD's new 7th-gen A-series processors.